Outdoor clothing is essential in New Zealand’s colder months. Good outdoor clothing will not only keep your little ones warm, but will also save your sanity! Your children will be able to play outside even on wet days, and you won’t have to worry about constantly changing their clothes.

There are lots of factors to consider in choosing the right outdoor clothing for your family.

What might your children need?

A full set of outdoor clothing could consist of the following:

  • A warm hat that will cover the ears
  • A jacket
  • Gloves
  • Pants or overalls
  • Gumboots

Cost:

  • As the saying goes,  ‘you get what you pay for’.  However, not everyone’s budget will allow for a brand new pair of fully-lined overalls and good quality gumboots.  Buying second hand (or brand new from discount retailers online) is one option to keep costs down, but you’ll want to get thorough information about any online purchases as one seam coming apart could compromise the very purpose of the garment.  If possible, inspect the item yourself before purchase, paying particular attention to seams, elastic (does it still seem to stretch adequately?) and general wear-and-tear.
  • Otherwise, shop around, wait for discounts and try stores you might not ordinarily think of – for example, farming supply stores.  You may find the ranges and quality for price are more economical than buying from children’s clothing or department stores.

Level of protection:

  • Some garments are ‘showerproof’, others are fully waterproof.  It pays to read the labels!  Do you want the ultimate protection so that no under layers are prone to moisture during outdoor play, or are you ok with just keeping most of the moisture out?  Check the seams and see if there is a some form of tape covering them (which is ideal), or if they are just sewn together for an idea about the level of moisture protection.

All in one or separates:

  • A child’s snow suit can be an effective all-in-one option – padded and waterproof, covering both arms and legs and zipping up the middle.  This may work for a baby, or if it doesn’t have feet included – for a toddler, but it will not be so easy to get on and off an older child.  It is also more practical in Invercargill than in Kaitaia
  • Having a good quality outdoor padded jacket can be more versatile than an all-in-one suit, so this may be something to take into account.

Level of insulation:

  • How many layers do you want to put on your children before the exterior layer?  They will probably need extra warmth outside as well as the waterproof layer.  You could buy a jacket that is simply to protect from wind and rain, or you could buy one that is suitable to put over a light shirt but has a few layers of padding adding a lot of extra warmth (but potentially more expense).

Durability:

  • Are you looking for gumboots that will last the winter or last several children as they reach that shoe size?  Do you want an item you can get clean a few times or one that is easily washable many times?  These questions come down to durability and choice of fabric and quality will play a part
  • Outdoor clothing comes in such a wide variety of fabrics, it can be hard for the average parent to know which is best – nylon, wool, fleece-lined, down-filled, polyester…  visiting an outdoor-specific store or farming store will give you access to further information about what will best suit your child’s lifestyle and your budget.

Comfort:

  • If the item is too large for your child, it may become cumbersome during outdoor play and thus harder to convince your child to wear.  It may also be less effective at keeping out moisture.  So though it may be enticing to buy the next size up to do them for two winters, consider this option carefully. Ideally – if padded, your child’s outdoor clothing will be large enough to comfortably pull over their normal clothing but the trouser legs and arm length will fit well without too much extra fabric bunching up or needing to be rolled.  If not padded, the garment should be large enough to fit over an extra layer or too while still not being cumbersome for the child to move around in.

Ease of getting on/off:

  • Just like shoes, some makes of gumboot fit a smaller, narrower foot and others are better for a wider foot – take your child with you when shopping for gumboots and check that their foot will go in the boot without the requirement of a small army of assistants (and that you can get it out again with reasonable ease, or if the child is old enough – that they can easily get in and out of the boot themselves)
  • Pants with an elasticated waist make pulling them on and off over other clothes much easier than other types of fastenings.  Elasticated cuffs can be more difficult to get down over boots when children are in a hurry, but will add extra moisture protection.  Zips near the ankle are another good option
  • Pants can be easier to get off than overalls but offer less overall wetness protection – so what are you really looking for in your garments?

Wash-ability:

  • The point of outdoor clothing is to allow your children some time outdoors when whether conditions make it difficult.  Consequently these items are likely to gather some build up of dirt and will require laundering.  Are your garments machine-washable and machine-dryable?  If they cannot go in the dryer will they take a few days hanging on a rack to dry?  If so will you need more than one of that item?

Style:

  • Perhaps your daughter wants the hot pink gumboots with the black spots on them as opposed to her brother’s hard-wearing hand-me-down boots.  How important is style to your family in these types of choices?
  • Functionality may rule over fashion when it comes to outdoor gear – although stylish versions are generally available, they may not be as durable, washable or protective as simpler items available from non-fashion stores.  Check the item carefully using the guidelines above if your child falls in love with the cute option over the practical.

Pockets:

  • If you want your child to be able to collect treasures, wipe their nose, carry a snack or other items: check that the exterior layers you are about to purchase have suitable pockets.  It can be incredibly frustrating having no where to put necessary items when you’re going out and about – and even more frustrating having dirty boots traipse through the house to get these things during busy outdoor play!

The benefits to choosing quality outdoor clothing for your children are many.  If you choose well, the items should be easy to get on and receive lots of use.  The level of protection offered will be high and this should mean there is less laundry in the basket for parents to manage.

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Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

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